When Alaric Jackson decided to return for his redshirt senior season ahead of 2020, it was regarded as a bit of a surprise. Yet he wanted to show he was better than his injury-riddled 2019 campaign and did so by elevating his third team all-Big Ten performance into a first team slot in 2020.
Jackson entered Iowa as a basketball-first athlete, though he set the world on fire in high school on both sides of the ball as he set the school record for sacks in a season out of Detroit, MI’s Renaissance High. He took 2016 to redshirt and acclimate to the Hawkeye program.
He started the first game out of 2017 at left tackle, a position he would go on to start 42 games in his four years starting. He leveraged a strong freshman campaign into first team freshman all-American honors before breaking team rules kept him out of Iowa’s Pinstripe Bowl win over Boston College.
Continued off-field indigestion kept him out of the first game of 2018, though he started the remaining 12. He finished the season as a second team all-Big Ten lineman. Unfortunately an injury in the first game of the 2019 season kept him out of the following three games before a rude awakening against Michigan where Iowa could only muster 3 points. He never looked “right” throughout the rest of the season but still performed at the third team level.
Going into 2020, Jackson became vegan to shed some excess weight and saw it dip to 305 while looking noticeably slimmer. His position coach, Tim Polasek, noted he appeared quicker and more energetic since the change in diet:
Tim Polasek notices more energy, quickness and agility in Alaric Jackson since he’s changed his diet and become vegan.— Rob Howe (@RobHoweHN) October 8, 2020
As mentioned above, he’d go on to notch first team all-conference honors. After Iowa’s season, he went to the Senior Bowl where he was drilled outside his area of expertise at left tackle and dinged by one draft analyst. From Yahoo Sports:
Jackson’s lack of length and bulk showed up multiple times in drills, especially in one-on-ones when he had a few turnstile reps. It might not have been a terrible week overall, but Jackson looks more like an early Day 3 prospect than someone who should crack the first three rounds.
Kirk Ferentz has the easy counter, as Jackson has so much film that it’s easy to talk about a guy’s negatives while ignoring four years of positives: “We’re talking about guys that really played well on tape and in Alaric’s case, that’s four years of evidence, really. Obviously, he’s a better player now than he was as a redshirt freshman.”
Draft analysts have him settling in for the early part of Day 3, as noted above. Scott Dochterman has him slotted in the fourth round while his colleague, Dane Brugler sees him as the #221 prospect and a career backup due to lackluster pass blocking. Seems a little unfair for a guy who started over the course of four seasons for an offensive line factory at the most important position, but what do I know?
One area where he is dinged, is that lack of versatility. If you’re not a Day 1 starter along the line, the best value one can display is being at a number of positions and Jackson is in that unfortunate position of having just a single position (even if it is the most important) under his belt.
If he’s able to land in a spot which can take advantage of his run blocking while mitigating his woes in the passing game, he can be an impactful lineman at the next level. If he can elevate his ability in the pass protection, he’ll be the latest long-term NFL lineman to come out of the Iowa Hawkeye program.